Great Regan Hagar Interview

by Kathy Davis on May 10, 2009

The boys - Neumo's Seattle Oct. 2007

The boys - Neumo's Seattle Oct. 2007

Seattle Sound magazine has a great interview with Stone’s side project Brad drummer Regan Hagar. Regan talks about his current gig working for Neil Young, fatherhood and his hopes for Brad’s future. Read on, and go here for the original article.

Q&A: Rock Drummer, Dad Regan Hagar

By Clint Brownlee Sunday, May 10th, 2009 @ 9:54 AM

Regan Hagar has had a serendipitous, successful rock and roll career. He became a founding figure in the pre-grunge Seattle scene by hanging out at the Showbox in his teens and befriending the flamboyant Andy “Landrew” Wood on Bainbridge Island. He went on to play drums with Wood in the now-iconic glam act Malfunkshun, with Shawn Smith in the short-lived ’90s band Satchel and with Smith and Stone Gossard in the on-again, off-again Brad. Now in his 40s and with two kids cultivating their own musical talents, Hagar is managing tours for grunge godfather Neil Young. Shortly after catching a Gossard solo set at the Can Can in which the drummer played on a few songs, I spoke with Hagar about leaping from behind the kit to a living legend’s caravan, and about how his work affects his kids’ rock aspirations.

SOUND: It was cool to see you and [Brad bassist] Mike Berg on stage with Stone.
REGAN HAGAR: I thought Stone’s band was just fantastic. He’s been kind of doing a lot of recording and leaning that way for years. I’m glad he’s bringing that out to people now.

SOUND: Does the reunion mean anything for Brad?
RH: Brad has an unreleased record recorded four or five years ago at this point. [Best Buy imprint] Redline put out our last record, Welcome to Discovery Park, then decided they weren’t interested in being a record company, so they paid for the recording but didn’t release it. Shawn’s been making records, Stone’s been making records. We’ve done this before, where we’ve recorded a record and sat on it for sometimes years, [until] there’s an opening on everyone’s schedule. I hope Brad will put that record out and do some dates to promote it. Never say never. Brad seems to be this group of old friends that get together when there’s an opportunity.

SOUND: Who else are you playing with these days?
RH: I’ve been playing in a group that’s been going under the name EOCExtraordinary Ordinary Canary. That is Rich DeChurch from Sore Jackson, a group in the ’90s that was doing a lot of shows around town. We’ve been friends for years. And there’s Rebecca Young, who plays [bass and sings] in North Twin. The three of us have been getting together once a week for three years, so we’ve got quite a collection of songs. We do it for fun. We did do one show which was a lot of fun. We might do another one. We kind of record songs as a garage band, but who knows where that will go.

I’ve been so busy in my new gig as assistant tour manager with Neil [Young] that this is the longest I’ve been home since last June. That’s been a great experience.

SOUND: How did you score that gig?
RH: Well, Eric Johnson is the proper tour manager. He’s been with Neil for 15 years. He’s an old Ballard guy. I’ve known him for 20-some years. He started with Soundgarden and was their road guy, then he met Pearl Jam and was their guy for quite a few years. And when they did gigs with Neil, Neil found [Johnson] and loved him. I was just having a conversation with him and he said, “I’ve lost my assistant that I’ve had for the last eight years, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to go to Europe in a few weeks.” And I said, “I’ll go.” It was kind of casual. He said, “You’ll have to think about that, because you have a family.”

SOUND: That could be tough.
RH: I’ve been freelancing graphic design and raising my kids at home ever since [Stone Gossard’s] Loosegroove [Records] shut down [in 2000]. It’s been great. I was able to dedicate a lot of time to their elementary school. I got Brad and Critters Buggin to play at their school.

SOUND: That explains why you’re credited with a lot of album artwork.
RH: Yeah, I do a lot of that with people around town. It’s really a joy for me. I tend to do it because I like it more than [it being] a necessity. My wife went to full-time work when I started to work at home and she’s been the breadwinner ever since.

SOUND: What interested you in the touring job?
RH: The biggest interest was a selfish oneI really wanted to spend a summer in Europe. I thought it was going to be a job for about a month. And after about eight months, I thought, “Wow, this is going to keep going.” My kids aren’t that happy about it, understandably. But they’re older now, 13 and 11, and it works out in this time of need for work. [Young and his crew] have been so warm to me, and they are such a family, I can’t imagine not going out with them. I feel really fortunate to be around such an incredible artist. Seeing him work firsthand has been quite an experience.

SOUND: What’s a day on the road like?
RH: It’s pretty routine. My boss and I are tour managers, but we’re also valets and concierges to people. We logistically get them from A to B, but beyond that, we’re trying to keep them as comfortable as possible. Keep them happy, keep them healthy, keep the shows rolling without any stress on them.

SOUND: Has the economy affected Young’s touring?
RH: It has. You notice it when you’re out there. He’s still able to fill these arenas. But when you’re in these different towns, you can tellby empty restaurants and empty streetsthat things are hard out there. They just dropped the ticket prices on our next trip to become a secondary market in Canada. They’re much smaller towns, which I think will be much harder hit than the metropolises we’ve already [played]. You find that the metropolises have the money. They still seem pretty healthy. It’s the worker bees who are the hardest hit.

SOUND: Neil wrote and recorded Fork in the Road while on tour.
RH: He did. He’s done that over the last few months. It’s been such a joy for me to witness. We’ll be on the plane and he’ll have his little guitarit’s like a backpacker’s guitarand he’ll be sitting there riffing on something. And the next day, he’s in soundcheck showing it to his band. And in a couple days, they’ll play it live on stage. As a musician, it’s incredible that he has the strength to do that, to allow it to be what it is. We stopped in London after a European leg, and he recorded about half the record. And the North American leg, we stopped in New York and did the same thing. A three-day stint there. We’d just gone to Australia and were going to stop in Hawaii to record, and he listened to everything and said, “No, we don’t need to. I’ve got my record done.” That was jaw-dropping to me. They worked it out right in front of audiences. From a musician’s standpoint, it’s totally honest. He does what he does, and it’s incredible.

SOUND: What have you learned from Neil?
RH: Being true to yourself. He is extremely that. It shows in making the Fork in the Road record. And the videos he’s made for it. He’s been making those on his laptop, by himself. It’s amazing. Then he releases them on the Internet himself. His record company just freaks out. Of course they want to control this stuff, and he just wants to get it out quick. I love how he wants to express himself in real time to people. His M.O. is just to do it, get it out there, and move on.

It’s impressive to me that he’s as healthy as he is. I believe he’s 63, and he eats well, exercises every day, and when he does his concerts it’s two hours of non-stop rock. He’s sweating from head to toe. I can only hope that I can be like that at his age. You see people in the audience with their jaws dropped, staring at him in disbelief.

It’s kind of what I’m experiencing, too. He started doing a Beatles cover, “A Day in the Life,” which the Beatles never actually played live because it’s so orchestrated. Paul McCartney heard he was doing it, and I remember being on the bus with Neil one night after a show. McCartney calls Neil on the phone to talk about [Neil] doing the cover. I’m watching Mr. Neil Young talk to Sir Paul McCartney. It’s surreal to me.

SOUND: Are you happier behind the stage or on it?
RH: When I’m out with him, I miss and really want to be performing. Hearing him go through new songs, I want to be involved in the process. I want to pick up sticks and play with him. I thirst for it when I get home. I definitely play as much as I can when I’m back. I was excited to do Stone’s shows, but I was nervous because I hadn’t played in months.

SOUND: Your daughter Chase is playing a lot.
RH: Yeah. I’m very moved by that. I’ve always encouraged my kids to appreciate music, but I’ve learned as a parent that I can’t force them to do anything that they’re not interested in. I’ve really held back with music and let them find it on their own.

SOUND: You didn’t steer her interest at all?
RH: I don’t believe I did. I came home from a leg with Neil, and Chase had seen a classmate perform in a [School of Rock] Sex Pistols/Ramones concert. She was just like, “I’ve got to do this. It’s incredible.” We went out [to the school] and spoke to the program director. I loved everything they had to say, so we put her in. They split the kids into two groupsand her first experience was Black Sabbath or the Monkees. We thought she’d try out and be in the Monkees program because it’s more cutesy, a little lighter. [But] they asked if she could be in the Black Sabbath show. I was thrilled. And she ended up singing like eight songs. It was a thrill. And now she’s doing Devo and playing guitar.

My son [Shade] loves seeing Chase on stage. So he signed up to play drums, and he’s going to play a couple of AC/DC songs. That’s gonna be a thrill. I get the feeling he really wants to play guitar, though. We’ll see where that goes.

SOUND: Do you jam with them?
RH: Not yet, and I really want to. But I’m not that cool with my kids. It’s that stage that we’re at. They don’t want me hanging around their band practices or anything, which is right where they should be. I’m not offended by that. But I can see playing with them in the future, even if it’s sitting around a campfire on the beach somewhere. That sounds lovely.

SOUND: Are you encouraging them to pursue careers in music?
RH: No. That would be fine if that happened. My daughter has been doing drama as well, and has been acting in a production each summer with Seattle Children’s Theatre. It’s even more mind-boggling to see her on stage acting. I think she’s very natural at that. It’s hard to figure out what her passion is. Music has always been there on some level, and the process is rolling, but I don’t know where it’s going to take her. She wants to be a soccer player and a writer. She thinks soccer will get her into college on the cheap, which makes Mom and Dad smile. [Laughs] That’s what she says at 11, and I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do at 11. She seems way more focused than I’ve ever been.

SOUND: Did you take drum lessons growing up?
RH: I didn’t. I played the snare drum in elementary school, back when everyone had to pick an instrument. Back when schools had arts. In high school I met Andy Wood and really started playing a drum kit. Punk rock was what opened the door for me. Seeing the bands taught me that I didn’t have to be great in order to enjoy doing it. So we bashed it out in our parent’s basements.

At 14 I went to the Showbox to see a concert with another friend from Bainbridge High or eighth grade. A guy asked me if I wanted to come to the next show free by hanging flyers. I was like, “Yeah! Of course!” He gave me a stack of flyers, I got into the next week’s show, and that was it. From that point on, I worked at the Showbox and tore tickets. And there was a room at the back where all the kids started to play a little bit. Poorly. I did a couple of shows with this band called Maggot Brains, which was officially my first band. Andy asked me to join Malfunkshun, which had a different drummer and different bass player at that time. That was it. Everything changed from that point on. That was all I did, all I cared about.

SOUND: You came up with a bunch of guys who still seem like a family today.
RH: I think so. Seattle was such a small town in the beginning. We’ve maintained those connections, which is really important to me. And bands are difficult. It is like a marriage. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to maintain steady relationships with people that I’ve played music with basically from the beginning.

SOUND Do you see Seattle’s School of Rock forming a new music community?
RH: I do. I was kind of hesitant at the beginning, because I thought, “Who’s this guy? What’s going on?” There are like 40 of the schools across the country. But when you go there, you see these kids having three-hour band practices that are just like I would have had as a kid. And they really play well. Undoubtedly, it’s gonna spawn a bunch of bands. Kids are gonna meet each other there. They’ll end up in the parents’ basements–a guitar player meets a bass player meets a drummer and they’re done with school and have a band. It’s already happened once that I’ve seen since Chase has been involved. She’s in her second quarter. I’m hoping Chase will find future bandmates and be playing in my basement sometime soon.

SOUND: What would you like to see her doing in her 20s? Her 40s?
RH: I’d like to see her entertaining on some level. I know that’s kind of strange for a parent. But I see the joy that she has doing it. She reads incessantly, and she enjoys writing and reading. So that would be great if she could write books. But utlimately I think she’ll be doing some kind of entertainment. She acts, she sings, she dances. She’s a triple threat. And she’s dragging my wife and I through this. We don’t push any of it.

I want to support and encourage. I’m not really concerned which path she ends up on. I hope she’s true and natural, whatever she wants to do. I don’t want to see her do something for me or anyone else. She’s such an extrovert and my son’s such an introvert. It’s interesting. They’re opposites, which has been a really great lesson for me about people. Working for Neil has taught me a lot about people, too. Being ultimately a babysitter or a tour guide for people. Making sure everyone’s happy and tucked in and well-fed. I just want to do that for her. I’ll be there for whatever she wants to do. I think she’ll always play music on some level.

SOUND: What else musically do you have planned for 2009?
RH: I do sort of pine away for the Brad record to come out. It’s a great record that should be shared. And I’d love to get some dates. Being out on the road with Neil makes me want to go on the road as a musician. I’d love to have a month with Brad on the road. I learned from Rick Rosas, Neil’s current bass player, that he didn’t start touring and playing until he was in his 40s, which I now am. In the back of my mind, I thought, “I’ve given it my go, but it’s over.” I’ve learned to never say it’s over. I’d love to be in some band in the future with people I haven’t met yet. I hope to never quit.

It’s come back full circle now to where I play for pure pleasure. There was a time when I was a professional musician, where there was more pressure to be signed by a record company and having people expecting certain things. It’s nice to have that away. It’s all scrubbed off. The instrument is sitting there, and I can play it or not. For some reason, I have almost more desire now to play than ever. It’s really fun again. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t fun at any point, but I do realize that I had pressure before, and now I don’t have any. It’s nice.

Kathy Davis ( Twitter: @CrookedArm23 )
A Bay-Area based entrepreneur, co-editor Kathy conceives and writes her share of TFT’s articles and sections. She was co-editor/co-founder of one of the first Pearl Jam fanzines "Footsteps" (1992-1997). Kathy’s first Pearl Jam show was at the Bridge School Benefit on November 1, 1992.

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